The anticipation of a new festival season brings excitement and trepidation. It feels a little like the reopening of Broadway. People have been away for so long. Will they still love it today, as much as they did two years ago? My “dress rehearsal” at the end of January went well. The small event I attended was a good opportunity to get my bearings and remind myself what that spotlight feels like, warm and inviting. Now, Spring is right around the corner, and my touring schedule is expanding.
In the time I’ve been away, I’ve been rehearsing, realigning, and remembering my “why”. I’ve republished all my previous books. I fine-tuned the inside pages and redesigned the covers. I’ve also added new titles to my catalogue. So much is different, yet so much will be the same. It’s an emotional challenge to balance the comfort with the concern, stretching through each event, becoming relaxed once again inside the skin of the public moniker, “Author”.
There is a bucketful of worry that precedes each happening. Just like stage jitters before a performance, butterflies flit around my head, creating a small breeze of doubt in my brain. Today, just a few days before, I pack up my toolbox and run over the event schedule. I rehearse the synopses for each story out loud… hoping that when the day arrives, I’ll have memorized my lines and be, as we say, “off book”. I pace nervously, gazing at the pile of props I’ve assembled on the living room floor. Do I have enough books… did I order too many? Are the tablecloths clean and as wrinkle-free as possible? Have I tested my display on the dining room table? Are there things I should change, or should I keep the presentation the same to remind visitors with a sense of the familiar? What should I wear? I make a checklist, and go over it three times before closing the box. I’ll invariably open it again a few more times, just to be sure I haven’t forgotten anything before the day arrives.
There is also a comfort that comes with thinking about getting back “out there”. I love the connection found inside conversations with readers and authors. I find reassurance in the small bit of validation that comes with each book sale. As I watch readers walk away, clutching my authorgrpahed book, it reminds me that perhaps what I’m doing matters… a little bit, maybe. Perhaps the stories I tell make a difference, or at the very least, bring a bit of pleasant distraction to a reader’s day. Providing a moment of escape from the overwhelm and stress that surrounds them.
The Oscar quote from Sally Field comes back to me, “You like me, you really like me.” That’s not a small thing. Creatives crave acceptance and connection with our audience. Passing a book from my hands into the hands of a smiling reader sustains me in those moments of doubt while in the writing chair. I treasure each smile, each conversation… even if they don’t buy. The mere fact that they took a moment to talk with me is huge. Imposter syndrome burrows deep inside many novelists, and I’m no exception. But those smiles… they keep me coming back.
Once the curtain closes on a festival or fair, I critique my performance, often being far more harsh on myself than I should. It is an occupational hazard. I give readers time to contemplate my work, distracting myself with the preoccupation of my next manuscript, and thoughts of the next event. Then, I seek out reviews, as many in the theatre do. Was my work well-received? Did they even care enough to write a review? Will I be rejected as a wash-out writer in a field of best-sellers, with no opportunity for a call-back and redemption? Waiting is a harsh Mistress.
I remind myself that there is no competition in our literary world. Everyone has an equal responsibility to be the lead, play in the chorus, and work on the crew. Each part is important for the success of the show. I call upon my tribe for the reassurance I need and offer my best supportive words to them in return. We honor each other for the risks we take and the path we walk together, arm in arm, turning pages, and celebrating stories.
I am glad for the anticipation of the new season, and the prospect of meeting all of you. I am but a simple storyteller, praying you find delight in my tales. To those who visit an event this year, and stumble upon my small stage of authordom, Thank You. I appreciate your kindness and value your time.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended–
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
~A Midsummer Night’s Dream; William Shakespeare
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